Auburn Destroys LSU! (Grading Auburn’s 48–11 Victory over LSU)
Nowhere to Run for the Bayou Bengals
(AP Photo, Butch Dill)
War Eagle everybody! It’s time now for the Acid Reign Report on Auburn’s crushing 48–11 win over the LSU Tigers. This game started out as a defensive struggle as the first quarter ended with no score. After a sounding out period, the Auburn offense took flight and started tearing LSU up on the perimeter. Meanwhile, the much maligned Auburn defense took it to the LSU offense, whipping the LSU front and causing havoc in the running game. LSU was forced to go to the air, and for the first time all year the Auburn defensive line brought the heat. An interception return deep into LSU territory set up Auburn’s first touchdown, and a sack-strip-fumble return for a touchdown put Auburn out to a 14–0 lead that would grow from there.
I’ve complained bitterly the past couple of weeks about Auburn’s management of end-of-the-half situations this season, but there is little to complain about this week. Auburn got the ball back pinned deep at the one-yard line with 3:36 left in the half. This time, Auburn managed the time well, moved the ball 99 yards and culminated the drive with an easy pass to Ze’Vian Capers for the score. Everyone in the house knew Bo Nix was going to try to squeeze a pass in to Seth Williams, and LSU double-covered Williams. Capers was all alone and delivered a crucial score to put Auburn up 21–0. After leading at the the half 21–3, Auburn didn’t waste the 3rd quarter kickoff. The Tigers marched 75 yards and punched in another score to make it 28–3. The game was essentially over because of the before and after-the-half drives.
Auburn was presented with a quandary offensively against this defense. LSU has one of the better defensive lines in the conference, and it was bound and determined not to let Auburn just mash the ball up the middle. And, LSU also has a lot of talent in the secondary. What Auburn did was get the ball to the edge with sweeps, quick screens and jet sweeps, and it worked. Auburn got the ball out on short tosses to Eli Stove and J. J. Pegues to the tune of 8 catches for 93 yards. Also, Anthony Schwartz had 3 catches of short passes for 32 yards before blowing the top off LSU’s secondary with an emphatic 91-yard touchdown bomb reception. After a slow start, Auburn piled up 506 offensive yards, and that included the team mostly just letting the backups run the ball in the 4th quarter.
Early in the game, the LSU offense seemed to have some success with what I’d call the “post cross” route combination. A receiver takes the safeties deep on a post pattern, clearing out underneath for a secondary receiver to be open on a medium-range square-in route. LSU quarterback TJ Finley squeezed a few of those into tight coverage successfully, but that evaporated as time went on. The defense line had its best game of the season, collapsing the pocket and rattling the quarterback. After a few hits and turnovers, Finley was no longer able to fire darts over the middle and had to rely on a short passing game that Auburn was largely able to limit. Auburn’s ferocious presence up front prevented any semblance of a consistent running game for LSU.
If I have any complaints about special teams, it would be kicking the ball off to the LSU return men. We saw LSU take one to the house against South Carolina last weekend, and I figured the best plan would be just to try to kick touchbacks and cede the 25-yard line after each kickoff. Auburn nearly let LSU get back in the game after taking a 21–0 lead by kicking the ball to Trey Palmer at the two. Palmer nearly got away, and it took a diving trip by kicker Anders Carlson to down Palmer at the 35-yard line. As it was, the good field position allowed LSU to drive to a field goal before the half. There was also a missed extra point, but I’m not going to complain much when the score was 48–3.
Unit grades after the jump!
Defensive Line: A-. For the first time all year, Auburn won the battle up front. There was a refusal to be pushed off the line, and the unit was able to generate pressure on the quarterback repeatedly. Gap control was sound, and Auburn was able to rotate players and remain fresh. The defensive line contributed 4 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, 5 tackles for a loss, 17 total tackles, an interception and a crucial forced fumble.
Linebackers: A-. With the line holding its own or better, the linebackers were able to run free and make plays a lot closer to the line of scrimmage. Also there was better coverage of tight ends and secondary receivers. LSU Tight end Arik Gilbert had a team leading 6 receptions, but only for 55 yards as the linebackers were in place to prevent these from turning into big gains. The Auburn linebackers contributed 22 tackles, and Zakoby McClain led the way with 9. The Tigers did a good job keeping LSU from being successful throwing deep. In total, the secondary contributed 29 tackles.
Secondary: B+. LSU completed 28 passes for 315 yards, but at least half of it was in garbage-time when the game was out of hand, and Auburn had lots of backups in the game. Corner Roger McCreary held ace LSU receiver Terrace Marshall to 4 catches for 28 total yards.
Punting: A-. Aiden Marshall returned as the punter and had 3 punts for a 43.3 yard average, including dropping s punt on the LSU one-yard line. Oscar Chapman got in late, and had 2 punts for a 39-yard average. LSU was not able to return any Auburn punts.
Punt Returns: B. LSU punted 7 times, and Auburn had 1 fair catch and 2 returns. Eli Stove took one for 11 yards, and Mark Anthony Richards had one for 18 yards. LSU was able to kill 2 punts deep in Auburn territory.
Kick Returns: A+. Not a lot of opportunity as LSU kicked off only twice. The second-half kickoff went for a touchback. After scoring its lone touchdown, LSU attempted an onside kick. Zion Puckett recovered the ball for Auburn before it had a chance to go 9 yards.
Place Kicking: B-. Anders Carlson hit on 6 of 7 extra points and had 8 kickoffs with 4 touchbacks. LSU did return 3 kickoffs for an average of 28.3 yards per return, and it could have been a lot more if not for an Anders Carlson last-ditch tackle.
Offensive Line: B+. Aside from Georgia, this is probably the best defensive line Auburn has faced this year, and even without starter Brandon Council, Auburn did very well. The line did not give up a sack and helped Auburn to run for 206 yards.
Running Backs: B. Astoundingly, Auburn has played 6 games this season, and we have yet to have a lost fumble by a running back. LSU played the run hard, but Bigsby and Shivers still managed 20 combined carries for 89 yards.
Receivers: A-. I counted off a bit for the lost Seth Williams fumble into the end zone, and worried at the time that maybe LSU cornerback Derek Stingley was going to win that battle. As it turned out, Stingley did not break up a pass, and Williams finished with 4 catches for 71 yards. Aside from Williams, Auburn secondary receiver Eli Stove had a good game, officially catching 5 for 64 yards and a score and adding 21 yards on 3 jet sweeps. Anthony Schwartz had 4 receptions for 123 yards, and Auburn completed 3 passes to tight end J. J. Pegues for 29 yards, delivering blows to the defense. Blocking was as good as it has been from this unit this year.
Quarterback: A+. Probably the best game of Bo Nix’s career. He had no turnovers, passed for 300 yards at a 75 percent clip, and led the team in rushing. I saw literally one pass that I thought Nix shouldn’t have thrown early in the game, and that was about it. It was a brilliant game with good reads all around.
Auburn has earned a bye week and will be off next Saturday before traveling to Mississippi State the following weekend. Here is hoping the off time will give Auburn time to get more wounded players back, particularly safety Jamien Sherwood, who suffered a foot injury. I think it is good to get a rest week after a big win, and the Tigers still have plenty to work on.
The Bulldogs seem to be having a meltdown this season after stunning LSU in the first game. The main worry defensing them is containing a ton of screen passes. I have to wonder how morale is on that team. They have been hemorrhaging players lately to the transfer portal, and head coach Mike Leach doesn’t seem to care much. I know he’s a first-year coach and has to get “his” players into the program, but you have to wonder if he’s able to keep his team from mailing it in the rest of the season.